Boosting Customer Engagement In A Digital World With Rebecca Clyde
In a time where almost everything is digital, how do stores and businesses maintain customer engagement? COVID has pushed entrepreneurs into reimagining and innovating their approach to customer service with digital strategies. Host Chad Burmeister, CEO of ScaleX.ai, talks with Rebecca Clyde, co-founder of Botco.ai, about how AI is changing the game with digital customer engagement. Rebecca reveals the benefits of AI and busts some myths on how it affects your business.
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Boosting Customer Engagement In A Digital World With Rebecca Clyde
I've got a special guest with me from the desert and the warmth of Arizona. Rebecca Clyde is the Cofounder of Botco.ai. I'm excited to drill into how virtual salespeople can become the digital front door. It's a term I've never heard before talking to Rebecca. Welcome to the show, Rebecca.
Thank you for having me, Chad. It's great to be here.
This is exciting. The digital front door, I'm definitely going to drill into that. I heard 1,500% growth year-over-year. You guys must be doing something right. There's a handful of chat players in the market, but only a few are leveraging the power of AI under the hood. Tell us a little bit more about Botco. What's different? Why are people coming to you?
We've been growing very successfully. Our company was launched as COVID was happening. One of the reasons why our success came at that time was because it was right when a lot of businesses were trying to think about how they can re-imagine their whole engagement and approach with their consumers and customers using digital strategies. They were forced to close their doors to their brick-and-mortar locations but still wanted to stay engaged and needed to maintain those relationships. They had to think about new ways. That was right when we were coming out and commercializing our product.
For us, in particular, we have focused primarily on the healthcare sector, healthcare and wellness, which were two sectors that were very impacted in 2020. They had to start to re-imagine their whole patient engagement and consumer engagement approach to make themselves more available from a digital standpoint. That's why we talked about a digital front door. For us, that means when somebody is inquiring about a service, treatment, insurance, coverage benefit or even availability, they don't want to be waiting on hold. They don't want to play phone tag. They just want to get the answers they need quickly so that they can move on, get the treatment booked and start working on their health and wellness.
I had some back pains in the last few days. What I did is exactly what you're talking about. I went to chiropractor 1, 2, 3 and massage therapist 1, 2, 3. You're like, "They're booked out for ten days. This one, I don't know if they take insurance. I don't want to be oversold like I was with the last chiro." What did I end up doing? I just went to Groupon and said, "If I have to go this route because nobody will pick up and handle my questions, I'm going to buy the $100 Groupon," which is probably not too good for them because I could have spent $600. That's the list price and it was inefficient. If I could have gone to a website, the first one that I could have said, "Here's my insurance card. How does it work?" I would have loved to get those answers in a self-serve mode. Is that what you're seeing? I got to believe it's such a small percentage of companies who do it right.
In healthcare, there's a unique challenge and there's a lot of regulation in terms of how healthcare information is handled, especially with regard to personal health information. We have focused our solution on having the appropriate guard rails around all of that and what we call PHI, personal health information, protected and encrypted. That gives our providers the ability to trust our platform to be able to onboard us into their tech stack and comply with all of those regulations that they need to adhere to. At the same time, it's not just about compliance but it's also about natural language understanding. You often have heard of natural language processing. I think you had a few episodes on that topic.
For healthcare, it's important to understand, "What do people mean when they say certain words? When they ask certain questions, what is their intent? Are they looking for just information? Are they trying to get an appointment? Are they trying to get insurance coverage info? What is it exactly?" Knowing how to not just answer the question but recommend the next best action based on that question. That's where the intelligence comes in and where our ability to focus on the healthcare domain can add value and can exponentially improve with every customer in every implementation that we have.
Having the ability to understand the context in which somebody is asking the question is vital.
I think of my interaction with Zoom and I went into the chat. You would think Zoom went from rags to riches overnight during COVID. I thought, "This is going to be fun. The chat is going to be amazing." I went in and there are a lot of people that I know there. I'm not dissing Zoom at all. Let's be clear. I thought I would get a different experience. I said, "I want to move from 10 licenses down to 6." I stumped the bot on one simple question and, "Sorry. None of our reps is available." I was like, "Wait a minute." That was the broken part of NLP in my mind because it just couldn't understand. I tried to simplify it to, "How do I down-sell my account?" They were like, "Now, I get it. You need to talk to a salesperson." I was like, "I figured that would be the answer."
They want to talk you out of that one.
It's complex. People think it's simple, yet there's a lot that goes into understanding. I remember meeting with this company that was Israeli-based that used code from the listening and it had to get intent of what the communication was and understand not just a sentence but an entire paragraph. There are a lot of complexities on the back end of what you are doing.
We call that context. Having the ability to understand the context in which somebody is asking the question is important. That's what differentiates what I call the dumb bots out there from the more intelligent ones. It's knowing how to understand, "What are all the surrounding facts around this particular inquiry that matter?" and having those contexts persist through the conversation. Maybe something they referenced 3 or 4 paragraphs or questions before, people will come back to later. Having a bot that understands that context is advanced.
Even in conversations, it can still rely upon for context.
It's all of those things. Within our product, we like to think about all of the ways in which context could be applied. When we look at our roadmap, we think about how could audio play in or sentiment also play in? Maybe somebody says something, but the way they say it or the expression that they're using maybe have some anxiety around it or a sense of urgency. Maybe we help prioritize this particular customer as a result of that.
I'm curious. One thing I like to do with our readers is to connect the dots. You said you had some young kids or they remember things when they were young. Think about when you were younger. I would love to learn what was your passion then because you're into this NLP and AI. You're ahead of the curve in a lot of ways. I wonder when you were younger, what were you interested in when you were 6, 7, 8, 10 years old?
I was always interested in two things, entrepreneurship, making my own money and then leadership. Those were the two things that always co-existed as the common themes. I grew up in a very large family of eight kids. We lived comfortably. I never lacked anything. If I wanted to buy something extra that was outside of my allowance, my mom would say, "You have to save up for it. You have to go get a job and figure out how you're going to pay for it." That led me to start to get ingenious about how I would make more money so I could do things that were outside of the things that my parents provided. For example, my dad had this vegetable garden. I used to take the vegetables, put them in a pretty basket, polish them, make them look pretty, and then go sell them to the neighbors, unbeknownst to my dad. I was the rabbit that was stealing everything. I would sell it if I wanted to buy a comic book or whatever I was wanting to get. That was my first scheme or my first arbitrage.
A little bit later, when I was about 12 or 13, I started helping my mom and other moms organize their little kids' birthday parties. I was good at getting little kids to play games and getting them to go through the whole motion of a birthday party. I started becoming this event planner for all of the moms in my neighborhood and they would hire me. In the summer, I used to do ballet and I would organize ballet classes for all the neighborhood kids. I would go to all the houses that I knew had little kids and tell the moms like, "I'm going to have a ballet class at 3:00 at my house. It's only $1." The next thing I knew, I was bringing ten little girls into their living room and doing a ballet class. My mom was like, "I guess, no more ballet studio."
That makes me think about the elephant in the room around AI. Whenever I speak at an event, when events were cool back in the day, people would say, "What impact is this going to have on people's jobs and careers?" Talk to that because I imagine you've now lived through the experience of that. We even talked a little bit about it. Someone at a front desk of a Massage Envy that is trying to be ambidextrous, talk on the phone and say, "Can I help you?" I don't think you probably had too much of an impact on the staff at a Massage Envy at this point. They still need the staff.
What I always say is we're filling the gap because there's always space. There's always this gap between what people expect and what they're getting. What we help them do is fill that gap. We're not necessarily replacing people or taking away jobs. It's quite the opposite. We're creating more opportunities by filling that gap. When a customer is trying to make an appointment but can't because nobody is there to answer the phone or get back to them, that's a revenue-decreasing event. That's a missed revenue opportunity. What we're doing is capturing those opportunities, making sure that nobody falls through the cracks, that every inquiry is handled, that every prospective appointment is at least immediately responded to and is given the opportunity to engage. That helps increase what we call reimbursable events, which only contributes to improving the revenue cycle and growing the business. We see the opposite effect. In fact, we've had customers tell us that because of using our product, they're growing their teams and able to expand.
It reminded me of when I lived in Arizona and I did remote control airplanes. When it's flying away from you, this wing, if you turn left, it goes left. Imagine it flying toward you, you push left and it's backwards. Imagine flying the airplane upside down, it's all like, "Wait a second." That's the feeling that when people put in AI effectively and automation, it's the opposite of what they think. It makes people more effective. As you said, they may be having 20% of the revenue walk out the front door, "What would happen if I could show you a way to add 20% more clients?" "I could then hire another massage therapist."
That’s exactly the point. One of the things that people often say especially because we sell it to healthcare, there are these myths that say, "People don't want to share health information with a chatbot. People don't want to share their personal issues with technology." We know it's not true but let's work with it. Sometimes we'll test it during a time when that customer would not even have been answered. Say at night, we'll say, "Let's turn it on at night. Your phones are off. Your staff is gone. Anybody that calls at night would have gotten a voicemail or nothing. Let's see what happens when we run this technology at night or on the weekend when there was nobody anyway to answer." You can't have less than zero in this situation.
One customer did this for a couple of days. Within a few days, they had had sixteen pre-admission forms completed in their queue when they showed up the next day. It was a behavioral health customer and they were in awe. They were like, "We did not believe that people would complete a pre-admission form for a behavioral health use case because we thought nobody would want to share that level of information with a bot." It's not true. In fact, they were more forthcoming. They offered more information and it was more complete than sometimes even what the person on the phone could get out of them.
Voice is another really important innovation, especially because the voice alone can tell you a lot about the person.
This reminds me. I was in Florida and Larry Yatch is a former Navy SEAL. He goes in and teaches people about communication. He tells a story of a Foot Locker. If you remember Foot Locker, you will go in and they were somewhat popular. What they did is they made one change. They said, "What's the basic level of what it is we do? It's not selling shoes. We could measure your foot." They implemented that one weekend. They said sales skyrocketed by hundreds of percent. Think about it. As salespeople, they were like, "Let me show you this latest, coolest Nike shoe. Here's the Air Jordan." The guy was like, "No, I don't play basketball. I'm here for some loafers or whatever it is they were there for." As humans, we get in our own way. When they changed it to, "Let's just measure the width and the length," and that was their main focus, then they got a much higher result. I think the experience that your customers are having is, "Let's get the humans out of their own way. Let's collect information that the person is there to give in the first place."
They come with a story they want to share and a need that they want to express. Sometimes the bureaucracy or the training that that person has received inhibits that story from coming out and that engagement to happen. When we are consumer-centric, customer-first and customer-oriented more so, we give people that opening and aperture to tell us what it is that they're here for. It's amazing when that will happen. A lot of our customers are now using this even as a way to re-imagine their websites, sales process and admissions approach and think about entirely new ways to create that initial contact and engagement with our brand.
I went to the first Amazon VOICE Conference in New Jersey. I remember thinking that because they can program the back and forth between typewritten tex, at what point do you go to a site, talk to the site and do that? Is that on the roadmap yet? Where do you see voice chat coming into a website interaction?
We're already experimenting with a lot of these capabilities. We don't have a customer ready to deploy on them yet because it's a little soon, but I see these as things that are right around the corner. We use a lot of speech-to-text to enable that functionality but voice is another important innovation, especially because the voice alone can tell you a lot about the person. It can tell you about that sentiment they might be feeling. You might be able to see if they're anxious, stressed, happy or sad. There's so much that a voice tells us that we can add as a rich layer of information beyond what the words are that people are saying. I see that as being an important advancement.
I remember our website person who helped us with advertising showed us the report every week of where people are coming from. I would have thought 20% or 30% are on their mobile device and it was like 75% to 80%. I was like, "You're telling me that most, if not almost all, are on this little screen instead of the screen that I built my website on?" Those are the things that we need to think about when it comes to interaction. If I go to Botco.ai, I'll bet it's built to look good on an iPhone also.
Mobile-first, that's what I always say.
We've talked a lot about chat, AI, natural language processing and all of these kinds of aspects. Thinking about your own selling motion, you've got different founders in different states. You've got different programming teams in different countries even. Where are you leveraging AI in your sales motion at all? Is there anything that you're seeing that's intriguing to you that uses AI?
We use our own product. That's part of the beginning stages. We're always thinking about this whole concept of ontology. What an ontology is it's the interrelationship between words and terms. The way we use AI is by thinking about, what are the markets that we're going to go after? What domain ontologies are we going to generate? Do they already exist in an open-source library somewhere that we can use? How do we use that advancement in AI to tell us where to go next or where it makes sense to move into these new markets? The academic world does a lot of research around these different projects. You'll see a lot of open-source projects. You'll see the National Institutes of Health release some of these ontologies. When those become available, those are in a sense opportunities for us.
In a way, ours is very product-oriented. We're thinking about it in terms of how we use our product and then how we use it to tell us where to go next or where it might make sense to settle into. As far as our sales motion like how do we sell using AI, we have some tools that we've used to help us identify if people are interested in our product and if there's an intent there to buy. There are also AI tools that help us identify what a person's contact information might be based on a formula that the company uses for email addresses. We use it for prospecting.
I've heard mixed reviews on the intent data and yet the intent vendors' valuations are off the charts. It tells me that it must be working. Rather than just buying a list without intent, have you done any kind of A/B testing to say, "With intent versus without?" Because you seem like a data-driven person, I'm curious if you've seen any of those kinds of standard deviations above or below based on intent data.
We experiment with a lot of things. It's hard to know immediately because it takes so long to move some of these things through the entire pipeline and decide, "Did it work? Did it not work?" Short-term, some of them do appear to work. We will probably continue to try them, but I can't write a paper on them yet. The findings are not that far along. We're still early.
I worked with a big voiceover IP company and we did some testing. What we found is that the hot intent data leads that said, "I need a VoIP phone tomorrow," we were too late to the party. They were like, "These are our most valuable intent leads." The tier twos that were, "They're just starting to dip their toe in the water," it was better as a salesperson to catch them early, where they just tip the threshold of looking at your product versus too far down the path. It was more qualitative feedback from a team of 30 sellers. I never was able to quantify that feeling that I had. It will be interesting to see as years go by as people quantify the value of AI in that kind of sales motion.
In a sense, our product is an AI that is being used in the sales motion of some of our customers. What we have from them about our product is that when they use our product on their conversion, landing page, booking page or an ask for an appointment page, they're usually able to rise as many appointments on that page with them without it. The reason is that people get their questions answered instantly. Those points of friction that tend to hold people up like, "Is this benefit covered by my insurance?" You think that's a simple question, but sometimes it can take days to get an answer for it. If we could answer that question right away, then the likelihood that that patient converts into an appointment comes a little higher. We have customers now that make it mandatory essentially to use our product on any page of their website that has to do with scheduling appointments or engaging with a treatment or service.
Who doesn't want a 2X in conversion rates?
This has come over at them A/B testing us for many months against a lot of other variables and they've come out with this type of result. We're very happy to have that finding to share.
There's so much that a voice tells us that adds a rich layer of information beyond just the words people are saying.
I'm thinking about referrals for you now. I know someone who runs a yoga/blue light facility. It's workout and yoga. It's a mix of that. He's about to go to a 500 location thing from 5.
That's exactly when they need a scalable solution like ours. We find that our product and the need that we solve is primarily in those upward of twenty locations. Some of our customers have 200 or over 1,000 locations. Trying to answer questions about 1,000 different locations is almost impossible if you're trying to do it with a staff. Even if you're hiring the cheapest possible labor in the Philippines, it's still impossible to do.
You still have a human sit behind the scenes. You might have an AI bot that can handle multiple transactions at a time, where a person might only be able to handle a handful. When does the human get involved in a chat? At what point does it escalate to somebody?
Our product is an all-software solution. We don't ever have a live agent that our company provides. If our customer says, "We want to have these types of requests go over to a live agent," then we have that rule that can be set up within our product to say, "These types of questions get routed this percent or to these people." That's totally their business decision internally to be made. Botco.ai doesn't hire people to answer chat messages. We don't do that.
It's built for a closed-loop system.
We're happy to report that for customers that have been deployed for a few months and have already had a chance to go through the AI training and improve it, we're able to successfully handle over 96% of all of the questions that come in. Those 4% or less maybe are off-topic, not even relevant or they would have had to go to a person anyway.
It's a spam attack is what I find. We have an email AI. The one that's most common that I still haven't gone in the back end to fix goes to a FedEx location and it's where you send your documents to that email. Somehow that got in there. Every time it flags as one that's like, "Bot is confused on this one," because you've sent it to a document collecting email address.
You never know. There's always going to be those outliers and that's going to be part of our whole system every time. We're an entirely software-oriented solution. We do have humans in the loop as far as the training of the data goes, especially at the beginning, we have a team that will look at the responses that the AI is giving alongside our customers. We have a system that scores everything and gives it a confidence level. If there's anything that we feel like, "Maybe you might want to improve the answer here or we didn't have a good content source to answer these kinds of questions," we help them point to those content sources and fill in those gaps. Within a few days, those types of questions will all be handled going forward. Unlike the example you shared earlier, once you train your virtual agent, your Botco.ai agent, there's no turnover. It doesn't go away, go on vacation or quit its job. It retains that information in perpetuity until you decide to change it.
I love that what we're talking about here is exactly what Lori Richardson once said, "AI will help people solve the problem of low-value work. It shouldn't be done by a person to handle something that's so routine." It turns out it takes the friction away, gets better conversions and better customer satisfaction. It's such a no-brainer and yet so many companies it's so greenfield that they haven't tackled this problem yet. I'm excited to hear about this product. This has been a fun conversation. If someone wants to get a hold of you, Rebecca or Botco.ai, I think I already know the answer and it may involve a chatbot. Go ahead and tell our readers how they can get a hold of you.
We have a 24/7 virtual agent on our website that will answer all your questions. If you want to get a hold of me specifically, I'm very active on LinkedIn. I post a lot of content. We're always hosting webinars. We're always out there in the industry speaking on this topic. I would love to hear from you. Message or DM me on LinkedIn. That's the place that I monitor the most. It's easier to find me on LinkedIn than email because I get so much email. I don't even get through 1/3 of it. It's LinkedIn, if you tag me on something or you want my feedback on something, it's a great way to get a hold of me.
We did a study on that because one of our tools is social outreach through LinkedIn, 29.76% reply rates compared to email at 2% to 3%. It's a 10X multiplier and you've proven it. I love the fact that you've got your name and title on your background. I definitely need to go and do an upgrade here. Maybe we'll have it stream across on the live video feed in the background or something.
I like that. You're going to get more creative.
This has been a fun conversation, Rebecca. Congratulations on your success. You've come a long way since being 1 of 8 and selling stuff in your parents' garden to the neighbors.
I was selling stolen vegetables from my dad's garden. It's a life of crime. I started young.
It's always fun to talk to another entrepreneur and you're killing it. Keep it up. Check out Botco if you're not happy with your conversion rates. If you're finding you've got way too much turnover, 120% is what I've seen in the past on people, man, woman, person or the chatbots. It's better to pull the Band-Aid, upgrade and Botco seems like a very good place to do it.
Thank you so much, Chad. It's a great plug. I appreciate it.
Thanks for joining the show. We'll see you at the next one.
- Larry Yatch – LinkedIn
- Amazon VOICE Conference
- LinkedIn – Rebecca Clyde
About Rebecca Clyde
LatinX founder and entrepreneur. Modernizing healthcare with intelligent chat for patient engagement. Public speaker. Board Member & Advisor. 2020 List of Most Influential Women in Arizona. Arizona Innovation Challenge awardee (Fall 2019) & Venture Ready Accelerator Most Outstanding Startup. Most Admired Leader by the Phoenix Business Journal in 2018.
Future thinking, goal-oriented and globally-minded marketing leader who drives business growth through creative and innovative communication strategies. Skilled at recognizing market trends, multi-cultural nuances and uncovering customer needs to develop highly-effective and targeted marketing campaigns. High energy team motivator with a focus on managing through strengths.
Espouses a leadership philosophy focused on self-managed teams, striving to create a work environment built around autonomy, mastery and purpose.
2019 recipient, Vistage Leadership Excellence Award. Recipient of the 2016 ATHENA Businesswoman of the Year Award in the private sector. Recognized as "35 Entrepreneurs 35 and Younger" by the Arizona Republic. Recipient of the Arizona Governor's Mentorship Award from Janet Napolitano and Big Sister of the Year recognition from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona.